Starting in the 1930s, the United States forced into rejecting isolationism and heading to war instead due to economic, political, and social reasons. The US was in a depression and businesses saw a market in war supplies. As dictatorships rose in Europe, Roosevelt felt the need to intervene. Public opinion started to sway as Americans learned of innocents affected by the war. Before World War II, the United States had been in a depression. Not only that, but their isolationist policies contributed to a higher tariff rate and less international trade for the US.
The United States also felt frustrated because European nations were unable to pay back their war debts from World War I (refer to doc. B). As the 1 9305 progressed, however, the US started to open back up trade with foreign countries. In 1934 the Reciprocal Trade Agreements Act was passed. This act opened up international trade by substantially lowering tariff rates. America agreed that they would cut tariff rates by as much as one half if the other country would do the same. This act fixed the Hawley-Smoot tariff, which gave the US extremely high tariff rates.
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Though this act increases foreign trade, the IJS still passed some isolationist conomic policies like the 1934 Johnson Debt Default Act. This act prohibited any country that still owed money to the United States to borrow more. Also issued was the Neutrality Acts during 1935-1937 which limited the sale of arms to nations that were at war according to the president (refer to doc. C). Interventionist policies still were being passed, however, like the Neutrality Act of 1 939 which authorized the sale of arms to warring European nations.
In 1941 the Lend-Lease Act allowed the US to lend arms and ships to warring nations like Britain, while the US got land and military bases in return. Political reasons also fueled the United States’ switch to intervention. During the early 1 930s, Japan started to become unruly. They ignored treaties like the Nine Power Treaty which gave China an open door policy for trade, and the Four Power Treaty which limited naval strength (refer to doc. A). At this point, however, the US was still isolationist so there was no real American reaction.
As the decade progressed, Europe was being thrown into chaos and war as Germany started conquering countries. The US still had no reaction. It wasn’t until 1940 that the US started to really make interventionist decisions. It was then that Germany started to occupy France. This was unnerving to Americans, as it meant the last beacon of freedom was with Great Britain. Roosevelt called for the army to start massively building up and even ordered a peacetime draft. 1. 2 million troops and 800,000 reserves were to be trained.
The US was alarmed once again as the Soviet Union and Germany signed a nonaggression pact. In response, Roosevelt and Winston Churchill met at the Atlantic Conference (refer to doc. H). They created the Atlantic Charter, a document setting down rules for the fair treatment of the loosing nations if Great Britain were to win the war against Germany. The Charter was just one of the many interventionist acts that were to come. During the 1930s, public opinion about isolationism was changing.
As chaos raged on in Europe and Asia, Americans became concerned about these foreign countries being affected. Japan invaded China but there was no true response from the US. Instead, Roosevelt made a speech to the people of America. This speech, known as the Quarantine Speech, called on Americans to stay neutral, but to morally side against fascist countries. While this was appening, Hitler was taken over more and more countries. The public started to sympathize with Great Britain and the European countries that were being taken over.
They felt bad for the people there. Roosevelt wanted to act but the US still remained strongly isolationist. In a 1937 speech Roosevelt did try to convince Americans of the injustices going on in Europe by saying that innocent people, including women and children, were being killed (refer to doc. D). America still felt that they should stay out of all war. It wasn’t until 1941 that public opinion on America and war started to really hange. In a 1941 poll, public opinion on aiding Great Britain went from an 87% no to a 47% yes in just a couple Of months (refer to doc.
E). It was after Pearl Harbor, on December 7, 1941 , that the united States took action. Public opinion that the US should go to war grew rapidly after Japan bombed the naval base of Pearl Harbor, killing or wounding 3,000 men unprovoked. The next day, the US declared war on Japan and a few days later, Germany and Italy declared war on America. On April 30, 1941, the New York Times wrote an article stating that America ould have to fight against Hitler and the Axis Powers (refer to doc. G).